DOE to make $3.5 million in new investments in nuclear power

The Department of Energy announced $3.5 million for four advanced nuclear reactor projects that go beyond traditional light water designs. These projects — led by General Atomics, GE Hitachi, Gen4 Energy and Westinghouse — will address key technical challenges to designing, building and operating the next generation of nuclear reactors.

“Public-private research in advanced nuclear reactors will help accelerate American leadership in the next generation of nuclear energy technologies and enable low-carbon nuclear power to be a significant contributor to the U.S. energy economy,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

With support from the DOE, private industry and the DOE’s national laboratories have achieved significant advances that boost the safety and efficiency of new nuclear power reactors worldwide. For example, the DOE’s early research and development investments in passive safety laid the foundation for the nuclear reactors currently under construction in Georgia and South Carolina. The projects announced today will further advance nuclear energy technology — providing more options for low-carbon energy.

The four projects selected for negotiation will receive up to $3.5 million in total, with a 20 percent private cost share:

General Atomics (San Diego, California) — General Atomics will conduct research and development on silicon carbide composite material, which could act as a safe and reliable material for fuel rod cladding in advanced reactor designs. Better understanding of silicon carbide composite material will help incorporate this material into advanced nuclear reactor designs and support future licensing efforts.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (Wilmington, North Carolina) — GE Hitachi’s project will develop high temperature insulation materials and robust analysis tools to help design and manufacture electromagnetic pumps for liquid-metal-cooled nuclear reactors. Electromagnetic pumps have less moving parts than traditional mechanical pumps – improving reliability and safety, while reducing maintenance needs.

Gen4 Energy (Denver, Colorado) — Gen4 Energy will conduct research and development on natural circulation designs for advanced nuclear reactors that utilize a lead bismuth coolant. The project will develop computer models that will help visualize natural circulation flow and integrate it into safe, reliable reactor designs.

Westinghouse Electric Co. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) — Westinghouse’s project will conduct analysis on sodium thermal hydraulics to support advanced nuclear reactor design. The project will provide analytical tools to help quantify heat exchanger performance and improve component engineering for sodium-cooled reactor designs.

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